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on vacation (see you next week)

On vacation.

secret windows (don't look back)

I found myself in a conversation with an old friend, about the crossroads of writing, nostalgia and memory. "Distance and perspective are the upside." I said. "The slippery slope is romanticizing and being nostalgic. Well, that's the memory trap no matter who you are."
"It's funny... I spent most of my life thinking that I had a rather dull adolescence, and it's only recently that I've discovered that these stories are a lot more interesting than I gave them credit." My friend replied.
I admitted that I gravitate towards stories that are based on a mistake, a lie - thinking you had some great childhood, when actually it was a shitshow, and you fantasized about being adopted but sort of blocked that out.  



The question wobbled around inside my head for a few days. Was I too fast to judge nostalgia, to quick to brush aside its sweetness, stepping over it towards something invariably darker and sadder?  On Sunday, I was walking on Kutuzovsky, the cars roaring past as loud as a racetrack. Here is the MTS store, where we bought E's first phone, where I had gone so many times and now the windows are dirty, the inside is strewn with broken office furniture and a sign hangs loose in the wind, "space for rent". I wondered then, about the underrated sugar of nostalgia.

Looking back is easy. The edges are all too often smoothed over. Why not take that as a form of forgiveness? Nostalgia erases the vendetta, the grudge. It forgives. But maybe, just maybe that is the slippery slope I am so scared of. Maybe some things should not be smoothed over. I remember leaving New York for a month when I was 29. I went to Italy for the first time, my heart full of big splashy ideas, a girl to see, a loose plan of cities and streets to explore. It all deflated within hours of arriving, a balloon left out in the cold, hanging like a shriveled party leftover in the corner of a dark room. I still walked countless streets, in Rome and Florence, Bologna and Milan. I ate alone in restaurants, sipping wine and staring at faces. There were piazzas and old clocktowers, children playing, tiny museums. There was a fountain, and a great fog, a carousel with tiny bright lights that turned in a drunken haze. I remember it all. And then I came back to New York, thinking to visit Ferruci's on 1st Avenue, to buy some good rice, some sweet wet young garlic, maybe some black olives to eat while I cooked, a loaf of semolina so I could rip one end off and shove it in my mouth while I walked home, the wind cold on my face. But Ferucci's was gone when I went back. No warning, no announcement. The phantom smell of pecorino and sopressata made me dizzy as I stared into the dark cavern that hid behind the greasy windows. This was a feeling I could not shake off, a heady mix of betrayal and loss, the countless conversations with the two men behind the counter, one red-haired and silly, the other dark and serious, his voice a low whisper. So many nights I lingered, just breathing in that rare air, not ready to go home and cook some bachelor gravy just yet. Was it nostalgia that I felt? I still do not know. I just know how profound this loss was, and how I had been gone when it happened, far far away, staring at rivers through secret windows, shoving bresaola in my mouth, and wandering those streets over and again. 

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